TICK TOCK: Gov. Chris Christie’s administration may be running out of ways to protect Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno from a pension scandal.
By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog
The public is one step closer to learning some of the secrets of “Doublegate” — a hush-hush criminal investigation involving New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and an alleged pension fraud scheme.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson last week ordered the state Division of Criminal Justice to release an index of its investigatory records plus 13 confidential documents sought by a New Jersey Watchdog reporter.
Jacobson’s decision to lift the temporary protective order guarding the secrecy of the records is scheduled to take effect May 30.
“The deadline provides time for the defendants to file an appeal and seek a stay of this court’s order pending appeal if they deem such action necessary or advisable,” wrote the judge in her 30-page order and opinion.
But an appeal by DCJ could turn into a double-edged sword enabling the reporter to pursue the investigative records Jacobson decided not to release.
Of 18 records in dispute, the judge plans to release 10 documents in their entirety and three documents with redactions. Five of the records would remain confidential.
Jacobson’s ruling is the latest chapter in a story the Christie Administration has been trying to keep secret since 2010. Unlike the more recent Bridgegate and Hoboken scandals, Doublegate is loaded with documented evidence.
New Jersey Watchdog’s investigation found:
- As a county sheriff, Guadagno made false and contradictory statements in 2008 that enabled her top aide to collect retirement checks in addition to public salary. The subterfuge cost a state pension fund $245,000.
- A state pension board asked authorities in May 2011 to begin a criminal investigation into alleged fraud.
- Gov. Chris Christie failed to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct the probe of his second-in-command. Instead, a conflict-riddled investigation fell to the attorney general’s Division of Criminal Justice, where Guadagno had previously served as deputy director.
- Three years later, the results of the probe remain a state secret. DCJ has even refused to disclose the findings or results to the pension board that requested the investigation.
The big question is whether DCJ actually investigated Guadagno’s actions — or whether the probe was a sham to allow the Christie Administration to bury the case, keep the information confidential and minimize the political damage.
The answer may be clearer when the Jacobson lifts the protective order at the end of the month.
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DISCLOSURE: Investigative reporter Mark Lagerkvist is the plaintiff in public records cases against DCJ (Mercer Co. Superior Court, MER-L-464-13).
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The following bibliography contains hyperlinks to 24 previous New Jersey Watchdog stories on Doublegate in chronological order, starting October 2010:
CONFLICTS & CONTROVERSY PLAGUE YEAR-OLD CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF LT. GOV. GUADAGNO & $245K PENSION SCAM A version of this story was republished by NBCNEWS.com